Archive for October, 2013
Our second day in the mountains after bugging out. A friend and I went deep into the Catskill Mountains for a weekend bug out scenario. This was a training run to learn from our successes and mistakes. We did learn a lot during our stay.
Bugging out is often a necessity due to natural disaster, economic collapse or war. Having lived through two hurricanes within a 12 month period in New York I can attest to the importance of being prepared for any type of disaster. Hurricane Irene destroyed my antique shop and ruined the house I was living in. I lost literally everything, my source of income, home and even my furniture. The only thing I saved was my emergency bug out camper and truck. My preps were neatly and safely tucked away inside the survival truck camper where I slept during the hurricane.
This bug out training run was meant to teach us to be prepared to bug out at any time. And to learn what added survival items we may need for long term survival in the mountains. When you buy preps or stock up on food and leave it sitting in the attic or closet to collect dust and mildew you might be surprised when you grab it one day to head for the hills. Insects, rodents and mildew cause a lot of damage to your food and equipment.
With no practice or bug out training you may forget important equipment. Being prepared means not only to stock up but also to be trained, to practice.
I had some solar path lights with me that I wanted to try out on this bug out trip. These are standard solar LED garden lights. I got mine on sale for only $1.99 each. These lights are particularly interesting because they have a removable battery door inside so you can just flip a tab and remove the AA battery inside. This allows you to not only swap out the original batteries when the go bad but also to use these solar path lights as a simple stand alone solar battery charger. I now have a solar battery charger which can charge any standard AA rechargeable batteries.
These path lights can be used to help light up your campsite at night. You can use them in your tent or shelter for night reading or work. Simply remove the top light from the stand, leaving the stand in place outside in the ground and bring the light inside at night for LED lighting. In the morning take the light back outside and stick it back on the stand to recharge.
To charge a standard AA rechargeable battery just swap out the battery to be charged with the one inside the LED light and leave it out in the sun to charge. A solar battery charger costs about $20 on average. So this is a huge savings tip.
This day we went on a “scavenging” trip into town to find some wood. During a true grid down situation you will sometimes need to head out into supplies for your camp. Since this was a simulated survival trip so we had to purchase our wood. We picked up some boards to build the foundation for my friend’s new cabin in the woods. When we got back to camp the two of us started to build his dream cabin.
I learned another important lesson this day when we returned from our trip and I found my bed had shifted across the back of the truck and pulled out the two truck batteries I installed to power my lights and accessories. The wires had been ripped out and I had quite a mess on my hands. It had been nicely secured when I put it all together but I had not planned to drive all over the place without having the truck fully packed when I designed the truck camper. The bed was made to be removed in a hurry so it was not bolted down to the truck bed.
I am happy that I always take extra tools and repair equipment with me wherever I go. I was able to repair the damage and carry on with the day. In the future I will set up a board to wedge across the side of the truck bed in case I need to drive away in a hurry. This will keep everything in its place on the road.
We had some 2 x 8 x 10 boards so we finally decided to build a 10 x 10 cabin. I helped my friend Erick to frame the flooring in. Afterwards we set up some plywood boards on the frame and set up some chairs. We sat down to have a chat about our work. It felt good to sit there on the floor of our new “cabin” in the woods. We had no walls or roof but it felt good to finally have it started.
Lunch was cooked on the SilverFire Hunter biomass stove and consisted of some rice and an Indian dish. I love these Indian meals because they are 100% natural, are shelf stable and are packaged in a pouch just like and MRE. They make perfect camp meals.
I have a homemade kitchen sink with running water which slides into the truck bed for travel and can be slipped right out and used at camp. It uses a 12 volt car windshield washer pump to push water through the lines. I flip a switch and have water pouring out the faucet, just like at home. A small battery powers the water pump and a solar panel keeps the battery topped off. The sink is made so I can sit on a camp chair and wash dishes in comfort. I put this sink to good use during our trip.
Sadly we still live in the real world and our trip was cut short by an important phone call to Erick so we had to pack it all up and head home. This too was a good training exercise. I whipped up a nice meal on the biomass stove and then we packed up camp to leave. This situation was a good simulation of the need to move your camp quickly and bug out again in case you are about to be overrun. Within an hour we had the truck fully packed and left hardly a trace of our presence behind.
Watch the video of our trip:
Day one after bugging out into the mountains on our grid down survival training scenario we woke up after a surprisingly warm night inside our homemade truck camper. With a smaller space just the heat of our bodies kept it warm inside. It also helps to have a lot of gear inside to fill up the air space.
After we got up though and the sun started to rise it started getting quite cold and we both had to bundle up for a couple hours until it warmed up again. After heating up some coffee on the SilverFire Hunter biomass stove we had some dry cereal and coffee for breakfast. After the system goes down there will be no more milk and dairy products unless you have a goat or cow of your own or have a farm nearby. We also had not refrigerator and had no cold foods anyway.
I learned that the SilverFire Hunter stove needs to have the top opening fully covered in order to work properly so I inverted a frying pan over the top of it. My little aluminum camp cookware I have is all too small to cook directly over the stove. This reduces efficiency a bit but it got the job done.
I had my laptop out and was uploading the previous day’s video using my homemade solar power generator. It works very well. Both my friend and I kept our cell phones charged up and I was able to use the internet way out in the Catskills.
Depending on the reason for you to bug out, you may still have cell phone access as well. In this case we both are still living in the real world and needed contact with the outside during our stay. In a full grid down situation there will be no more use for a cell phone unless you use it for playing games, which may help reduce the stress of loosing most of what you are familiar with in the real world. People can live without modern technology but it you do not have to, then why should you?
In a full collapse scenario I will still use my computer to play movies or music or even games. It will help ease the transition into the dark ages.
After breakfast we had a look around our new “home”. We had set up camp in full darkness and we did a surprisingly good job. With just the Mr Beams LED lantern and my Larry Light we got a shelter put up and unpacked the whole truck.
We took a ride into town on a “scavenging” expedition to see if we could get some wood to build a cottage for a more permanent shelter. My friend Erick has owned this land for about 15 years and has never had anything on the property until now. We had no luck and returned to camp empty handed on this day. Erick decided to chop down trees and build a cabin with nothing but an ax and a hand saw so he got to work chopping on a tree. About an hour later a tree was down. It was a tough job because after cutting the tree through, it did not budge. It just hung there stuck on the upper branches of the surrounding trees.
Lesson learned – cut from the outside in. Never cut in the middle of the forest. The tree would not come down. We had to drag the base of the tree outwards until the top of the tree fell down. What a job. That was dumb. But we learned. That is the reason for this trip. Learn now so we do not have to later in a true shtf situation.
I have some items with me that I had wanted to test out and review. I was at Walmart a couple weeks before and found a Coleman waterproof match set in a plastic carrying case for only a dollar. I bought all three that they had on the shelf. Today I opened one of them up to have a look at it. It comes in an orange water resistant case with 25 waterproof matches inside. Rolled up inside the tube is a striker sealed in plastic to protect it from the elements. On the bottom of the container is a ferrocerium rod for emergency fire starting. This is a sort of man made flint which emits a huge bright spark when struck with a knife edge. I am impressed with the deal you get here for a dollar and will be getting more in the future if I find any.
The Coleman Waterproof Match Kit
Testing Some Emergency Fire Starting Material
I also have a couple dollar store zippo type cigarette lighters. I figured for a dollar I can try them out so I got two of them. They do work but do not burn correctly. The flame is large but burns out the side a bit. But in a survival situation it can save your life for sure. Even the flint is a nice deal for that low price. You can get a bunch of dollar store replacement flints to carry around and just use the lighter as a flint and steel for emergency fire starting if the fuel runs out.
I also have a small package of Duraflame fire starter. This is normally sold to be used in starting a wood stove fire but I had the idea of using it in my emergency survival gear as a survival fire starter. When wood is wet you have a harder time finding dry tinder to start a fire with. The Duraflame burns hot and long, giving you the ability to start a fire in just about any condition. It only takes a small pinch to get a nice fire going. This is definitely going to be a part of my survival gear. One for my car, one for the truck and a couple for my bug out gear. At only 88 cents it is worth its weight in gold in a survival situation.
This is a training scenario so I am learning a lot of important points out here. One is that you must keep your survival gear fresh and use it from time to time. My bug out bag has not been touched in over two years since my friend got married. I have not been hiking since. So my sleeping bag and military poncho liner stunk from mildew. I had to hang them out to air out for the day.
Another thing I learned that is very important is to keep your food not only rotated, but inspected for insect damage. Our dinner was to be some gnocchi with tomato sauce and couscous on the side. This sadly had to be changed because moths had eaten into the couscous package and left a horrible ruined mess of the food inside. You must ensure that your survival food rations are protected from the elements, rodents and insects. This was actually in my food pantry at home and was not even that old.
Dinner was cooked over the SilverFire Hunter biomass stove. This stove is quite amazing in that it can cook for a whole hour with just a handful of twigs. Even a rocket stove needs constant feeding of fuel in order to boil even a pot of water. With the SilverFire Hunter, all you have to do is get it going and then cook like you would on a normal stove top. You can even control the temperature a little by varying the air intake on the bottom of the stove as needed.
Trying Out The SilverFire Hunter Biomass Stove
A large pack of coyotes brought an early end to our evening. We only had a bow for protection. I even forgot my large survival knives although I did have them in my hands when packing the truck. I am not sure what happened to them on the way to being packed for the trip. Anyway, left nearly defenseless we jumped into the homemade truck camper and called it a night. We had oil lamps for warmth on this chilly night. Two oil lamps took the chill off enough for us to sit comfortable as we talked before bedtime.
Overall I would call this trip a success in that I am learning a lot of useful things for a true survival situation. You will never be perfectly prepared unless you train – train – train. Even I forgot some important points and items on this trip.
Watch the video:
My friend and I went up to the mountains of Upstate New York on a grid down training scenario where we had to grab everything we could within minutes of becoming overrun and bug out to a new location. The idea of the shtf training scenario is to become better prepared for a potential future need to bug out in a hurry.
I prepared for a few days ahead of time by building a truck camper in the bed of my truck with the help of some friends. I had an old camper top for the bed of my truck and some old camper parts from a camper I had gutted out years ago. Using old recycled parts I built myself a decent truck camper for bugging out.
Previously I have used my slide in survival truck camper for bug out training but with the rising gas prices I cannot afford to use the old truck camper anymore for training purposes. The camper weighs over 2,000 pounds fully loaded.
My new homemade truck camper has a removable bed, shelf, bench, folding table, composting toilet, a kitchen sink with running water, solar power and more. It has all the comforts of a standard camper except that its way smaller and weighs very little. This means it costs a lot less on gas. Another important advantage of the small homemade bug out camper is that since it weighs so much less and has a much lower profile I can take it places where I cannot take the full slide in truck camper.
The place we were headed is untouched woodlands near the top of a mountain. It is rough terrain and I needed to travel light.
I loaded all the gear I felt that two people could need for long term survival out in the mountains. Spare clothes, winter clothes, hand saws, food, cooking utensils, pots and pans, tools, emergency truck repair supplies and parts, oil lamps, alcohol burner, and more.
I also have a brand new Mr Beams LED lantern with a USB charging port on it to charge your cell phone in the field. For cooking I have a Silverfire Hunter biomass rocket stove to test out in the field. This was to be my only cooking source.
My friend finally arrived out of New York City around 4:30 pm. This would simulate a true bug out scenario where I had half a day to prepare while waiting for my friend to arrive from the city. It takes a long time to get out of the city when the grid is down. I know first hand. Once when it rained it took me 5 hours to get out of the city for a normal 1.5 hour drive.
Another point of this trip is to build a cottage for my friend. He has owned the property for 15 years and never started his dream cottage. We were finally going to start building it. That is another reason for not taking the huge truck camper. Yes you can remove it from the truck but in the soft soil and rough terrain of his property it is dangerous to remove the truck camper from the truck. With my homemade truck camper you can just remove the contents in five minutes and be on the road.
It took us about two and a half more hours to get to his property. It was pitch black by the time we got to the mountains. The roads are treacherous with steep inclines and very sharp turns around jutting rock walls. The rocks literally poke out over the road in places and you crawl around the turns at an idle.
We got to camp and unloaded the truck after dark. The Mr Beams LED lantern came in handy for this. We hung it on the side of a pine tree to provide light while we worked. We set up a huge tarp in the trees and used stakes and ropes to string it out as a canopy for our outdoor living area. All of our gear went under the tarp for the night.
The brand new Silverfire biomass stove was pulled out for the first time and used to brew up a pot of coffee to warm us up on the cold night. It only takes a handful of twigs and provides a very strong heat source for cooking.
After coffee we made our beds in the back of the truck for the night and settled in. I used my power station that I had built into the truck camper to answer some emails and messages with my computer. My cell phone provides internet. The cell phone was the only thing that would not really work in a true grid down scenario but I have my work to do and live goes on outside the training field with or without you.
The grid down bug out scenario continues…
In a previous post I have shown you how to make a biomass briquette press out of a simple caulk gun and PVC tubing. Now I will show you how to make biomass briquettes using your new biomass briquette press.
Here is the previous article on How To Make A Caulk Gun Biomass Press.
People living in the cities may not have access to a lot of wood to burn to survival or a grid down type of situation. This is a perfect survival tip for city dwellers or people with access to a lot of scrap paper.
All you need is a lot of paper to make your own biomass briquettes. You can use just about any sort of combustible materials but paper should be used as the binding material. Use at least 50% paper mixed with sawdust, shredded leaves or other burnable materials. For this project we will be using only paper. In a later project I will show you how to mix 50 – 50 paper and leaves picked up from your lawn.
You will need a paper shredder to make this easy. In a survival situation you can hand shred paper or make your own paper shredded if needed.
Get a bucket and fill it halfway with paper. Pour in enough water to soak the paper well. Now stir the mess with a stick to make sure all the paper is soaked. Put it aside for a day.
The next day stir the slurry well, mixing the paper pulp with the water. For best results stir the paper slurry a few times each day for the next 5 days. In a true emergency situation you can do this in only 3 days if needed.
When the paper has broken down you will have a nice sloppy mash. Most of the paper should be broken down and the pulp has separated.
Now your paper slurry is ready to be placed into the biomass briquette press and pressed into bricks.
Get your caulk gun biomass press and place a metal washer in the slotted end. Holding it in place with one hand, use your other hand to fill the tube up to the top with your paper slurry. When it is full you can still press it down a bit by hand and press in some more pulp.
When you are finished, top it off with another washer and place the filled tube into your caulk gun.
Press slowly in the handle of the caulk gun, squeezing the water out of the pulp. You can hold it over your bucket to catch the water coming out and re-use the water for another batch later.
When you have pressed the pulp down tightly with the caulk gun, wait a few seconds for the water to finish draining out.
Now you can release the tube from your caulk gun and press your new homemade biomass briquettes out of the tube. You may need a long handled screwdriver or wooden dowel to do this. A tree branch or broom handle works well too.
Place your briquettes outside in the sun to dry for a week or two. When they are dry, they will feel very light. Keep them protected from dew and rain.
Now your biomass briquettes are ready to use.
The briquettes can be used in a charcoal grill, wood stove or even in an old clean paint can in emergency. You can use your briquettes for emergency survival heat or cooking as needed.
This simple project can save your life one day. Just having the materials available in case of disaster can make a lot of difference. In New York City after Hurricane Sandy many people were left without heat and light for weeks. Some had not power or heat for months.
The biomass briquettes can be used to boil water to provide a safe source of clean drinking water in emergency as well.
There are many uses for biomass briquettes. All you need is a source of shredded paper and flammable bio materials.
I have had a fiberglass camper top for the bed of my truck for about two years now and always wanted to make a camper out of it. Now with a survival trip into the mountains coming up and no shelter where I am staying the time has come. A couple friends and I made a fully loaded survival truck camper in just two days.
I started out with the camper top. I got this for free two years ago off the internet classifieds. I used it from time to time for hauling stuff in my truck on rainy days but its been sitting on blocks for the past year now. This camper shell has sliding glass windows and bug screens. It has access to the cab through another sliding glass window. There are many windows, a raised roof area so you can sit up and also skylights to allow more light to enter during the day.
The camper top has a standard RV light fixture on the ceiling and the wires were just hanging down from the side of the shell.
After mounting the camper top on the bed of my 1987 GMC High Sierra 2500 4×4 truck I sat inside and checked out the space I had to get an idea what I could fit inside my new camper. I wanted a bed and a shelf for sure. That was a given. So I got measuring and came up with the idea of a two piece bed that slides together and uses the wheel well for support on one side. A single screw holds the two pieces together during travel to prevent them from sliding all over. Big Joe gets most of the credit for building the bed.
Then I built a shelf that spans the whole front of the camper from one side to the other. This is a simple drop in shelf that I can move around or remove as needed.
But I did not stop there. I wanted to have my battery topped off at all times so I used an old solar charge controller I had laying around and connected it to the batteries with a 5 watt solar panel I also had left over from an old project. Now I have a solar charged water on demand camp sink. I love it.
So far the total cost of the survival truck camper equals two dollars for the silicone hose. The rest of the materials I got for free or had laying around.
The composting toilet uses the seat off my old camper toilet. I replaced the sink in the camper long ago with a composting toilet and this old RV toilet was sitting out back. I took off the seat and lid and the guys helped me build a frame for my new truck camper composting toilet. A 5 gallon bucket slides easily underneath to catch your business. The toilet slides into the back side of the truck bed underneath the shelf during transportation or stowage.
After sitting back and enjoying the progress of our labors I came up with the idea of a second bench on the other wheel well for a guest to sit at. Big Joe whipped that up while I worked on an electrical system for the survival bug out shelter. I wanted to have power on demand for running lights, cell phone or other devices while out in the woods. I am not a minimalist survivor and never claimed to be. I like my comforts. We live in the 21st century and I will not head back into the stone ages in a grid down or shtf situation.
I have two old truck batteries I used for the main source of power. After connecting them up in parallel I also connected a 20 amp solar charge controller I had extra. This is connected to a 40 watt solar panel I bought used for only $20. In the meantime Joe Guiver hooked up the overhead wiring so I would have light inside my new homemade camper.
Now, not counting the value of things I already had on hand, I spent about 22 dollars for some battery terminals and the silicone hoses. I will total up the value of everything later counting what I had spent for things I already had on hand. I will also compare with full retail price in case you do not have these items on hand.
To hold things all together neatly I used a piece of scrap wood for an electronic control panels. This holds my solar charge controller, fuse block, negative battery terminal strip and also I added a cigarette lighter socket to power any accessories. It was looking very good.
I was sitting in the new camper with Big Joe and we came up with the idea of a table. A folding table that sits in between the two benches and can fold away when not in use. To allow for leg room to get in and out of the camper the table only has tree legs. Two on the back side and one on the front. This allows us to easily slip into the bed of the truck and sit at the table. The table sits three men comfortably for playing a game of cards or a meal after a day in the woods.
Now I have a fully decked out survival truck camper for shtf or just for fun.
The total cost I paid during the project was only about $22. The rest of the materials I had on hand.
Here is a list of materials used.
Truck camper top – free
Scrap lumber – free
Bamper sink from a water damaged camper – free
2 silicone hoses from the dollar store – $2
Used windshield water pump from a dead vehicle – free
Toggle switch I had laying around – free
Old truck batteries – free
4 battery terminals $5 each – $20
Scrap automotive wiring – free
Old jumper cables for battery connections – free
Misc screws I had on hand – free
20 amp solar charge controller – $29
1 amp solar charge controller – $5
Fuse block – $5
Copper tubing bus bar – free
Cigarette lighter socket – $7
40 watt solar panel, used – $20
5 watt solar panel – $15
two 5 gallon buckets – free
two 5 gallon water tanks, used $2 each – $4
Two recycled hinges – free
My total cost is just over $100 to build a fully loaded survival truck camper. Your price will vary depending on what you may already have on hand. You can often find scrap wood at the lumber yard at a huge discount. I had most of the items laying around already but they originally came from ebay. The automotive battery terminals are from the local auto parts store.
You can ask at the local junk yard if you can get the windshield washer pump and hoses to save on your own costs.